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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
like new, will recommend to others, wanted as a gift and was able to give as one, 5 star always
Published 19 months ago by Janet Lamb

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chaos
There is no doubt that Joan Schenkar had more access to material than the author of the other main biography of Patricia Highsmith (Beautiful Shadow) but the result is utterly chaotic. Instead of following the time-worn tradition of going sequentially through a subject's life, in this book Joan Schenkar decides to just write in whatever order enters her head...
Published on 25 Feb 2012 by R. P. Sedgwick


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chaos, 25 Feb 2012
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R. P. Sedgwick "Grim Rob" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith (Hardcover)
There is no doubt that Joan Schenkar had more access to material than the author of the other main biography of Patricia Highsmith (Beautiful Shadow) but the result is utterly chaotic. Instead of following the time-worn tradition of going sequentially through a subject's life, in this book Joan Schenkar decides to just write in whatever order enters her head.

Personally I enjoy the traditional chronological approach as you live the subject's life vicariously. With this method, which might suit people who knew her, the person just seems to elude you as the narrative jumps between young PH, middle-aged PH and old PH with no apparent pattern.

The bulk of the book is also about Patricia Highsmith's numerous girlfriends, and over half of it covers this area of her life. Most people, including me, are more interested in her fiction, but some of her novels were barely even mentioned in the text. I appreciate her love life influenced her novels but to include the former and the expense of the latter seems bonkers to me.

I believe Joan Schenkar was one of Pat's girlfriends but her own story is absent from the text. One wonders if the random and chaotic way it was written was done just to avoid having to tell her role in the story.

All in all I think Beautiful Shadow is probably a better book than this, although if you are more interested in Highsmith's sex life, then this is the one to go for.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Self Indulgent, 6 Oct 2012
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A (fairly) recent Times poll had Highsmith down as the greatest crime writer, a view with which I fully concur. Unfortunately this biography does not do her justice, being for the most part a slovenly, self-indulgent appraisal (if I can dignify it with that term) of her genius. Appraisal? It's mostly about who she slept with, and seemingly every alternate chapter bears the title 'Les Girls'. Now I love gossip, but only insofar as it sheds light on the work. Ms Schenkar's effort casts a moth-eaten pall of drivelling pseudo-psychologese over everything. Look at this passage: " No one who knew Patricia Highsmith in the last, claustral years of her life in Switzerland can believe how social - even how socially confident - she could seem to be in the 1940s Manhattan. The Embittered Old Oyster, shut up in a shell of her own devising in suburban Switzerland in the last decade of the twentieth century, was once a Pearl of a Girl in wartime Manhattan: avid for experience, hungry for connections, and going to every single place in New York City where she could find both." Anyone who writes as badly as that deserves to be called out as an Incompetent Purblind Old Hack. ( Sorry about the capitalizing but Ms Schenkar's style is contagious. Like genital herpes.)

Although I agree almost completely with the previous reviewer, I actually quite like a non-chronological approach, and have a soft spot for biographers (such as Roger Lewis in his mad, magnificent and fatally flawed Life of Peter Sellers) who take this path. Joan Schenkar is good on Highsmith's past, on her writing processes and particularly on her toxic relationship with her mother Mary, but whilst I abhor biographers who spend acres of print on discussing the work at the expense of the life, there really isn't enough about the former. I felt the previous biographer, Andrew Wilson, was more thorough about Highsmith's writing. I would suggest to those who love Highsmith's work to buy the excellent Beautiful Shadow first. This volume I would have strictly as back-up.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 22 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith (Hardcover)
like new, will recommend to others, wanted as a gift and was able to give as one, 5 star always
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